Have you ever tasted fresh fish? Caught especially for you? Have you ever bitten into that fresh flesh and got that sweet, fishy burst of flavour in your mouth? Mmm …
Usually I have to get my own food. I have to find it, prepare it, and serve it all by myself. But every Friday evening, I go and meet Bert at the lakeside where we sit side by side.
I met Bert about three months ago on one of my many night time strolls. He was stretched out on one of those fold out chairs and sipping from a can of beer. When I tried asking him whether he had seen the sign near the barbeque area that warned of fines if alcohol was consumed lakeside, he responded with his own question—“What brings you here, buddy?” I never did find out whether he knew about the sign.
He kept bringing the beers even if he did know the sigh was there. I guess, it’s not really my problem.
Anyway, Bert and I meet every Friday and he gives me the perfect moonlit dinner of fresh fish. And, man, is it good fish.
Sometimes Bert gets mad at me because I don’t share. He has a pretty bad temper, to be honest. His eyes start flaring and he calls me names like “sneaky shit” and “filthy scoundrel”. I know. Not exactly how you should treat your friend. That’s just his way.
His name calling always reaches its pinnacle when he serves the fish. Maybe it’s because my table manners are rusty and I can’t wait for him to say grace. Hmm …
The stroll home after meeting Bert is always a good one—no matter how rude he has been to me. Ultimately, I always go home the winner, don’t I?
So, with my belly full, I scrabble up the ladder to my bed. I live above the stable of a family who raises, breeds, sells and buys Clydesdales. The family let me live up there if I help out around the place when they need it. It’s a pretty good deal, really.
‘Oh, not you again,’ Bert grumbles as I approach, ‘what’s a guy got to do to get some peace and quiet?’
‘Oh, come on, Bert,’ I respond, ‘You know you love my company.’
‘Don’t you have something better to do on a Friday night? Cuddle up to someone? Enjoy a night beside an open fire or something?’
‘Better than fish? Ha. Not likely.’
Bert shifts in his chair a little and checks the integrity of his line.
‘I haven’t caught anything yet. More fool you, C.’
I sit on the ground beside him and adopt my cheesiest grin.
‘You know,’ he continues, staring out at the moonlit water, ‘You aren’t getting any tonight. Even if I do catch something.’
I stay silent and tuck some stray hair behind my ear.
‘I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m bluffing. Mark my words, C. You’re not even getting a scale tonight. Got it? Now go bother someone else.’
I stare at him a little longer before I decide a short walk to the run down boat house—a walk not so easy as it sounds. To get there, you have to tiptoe precariously over a yard of loosely stacked pebbles and boulders that sway under the weight of your body if you misjudge your footing.
A couple of weeks ago, I took this walk and got stuck between two boulders. Bert heard me screaming and saved me from re-enacting 127 Hours.
I step cautiously from one stone to the other. Some of them clunk gently against each other as I move. I can hear Bert reeling in his line and casting again. That’s what I love about being here at night—the quietness, the ability to hear the smallest of sounds echoing off the water.
I find a rock to sit on by the door of the old shed. It’s cold on my butt, but a small brown moth fluttering around my left ear holds my attention long enough for the stone to warm beneath me.
Upon making it back to Bert and his mounting collection of empty beer cans, the fishing line begins to twitch uncontrollably.
‘Look alive, Bert!’ I tell him.
He glares at me before beginning to reel the line in.
‘Remember, C. None for you. Get out of here.’
I love that Bert thinks that’s true—he’s such a sweetly innocent guy. As the line becomes shorter, my anticipation heightens. Will it be perch, trout, salmon? Will it be entrée size, or an all you can eat buffet? It’s the Russian Roulette of dinner.
The trout breaks the surface of the water with a hullaballoo of splashing and thrashing—trying desperately to unhook itself from Bert’s line. It’s a main meal, and it is gorgeous.
‘Stand back, C. He’s a big’n!’
The fish flaps about as Bert rests it upon the pier to unhook it. My feet itch, my mouth starts watering. As soon as the hook is detached, I pounce.
My teeth immediately puncture the flesh and the fish weakens substantially beneath my claws. But I can’t stay here. I have to take away.
‘Oi!’ Bert stands and lunges toward me, ‘You little bastard!’
I escape his grasp with millimetres to spare. The fish drags along the ground as I flee.
‘Come back here, you menace!’ Bert shouts after me as I dive into the closest bush to devour my dinner, ‘Blasted cat.’